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Letter: 'Nuclear Winter' Hysterics

In reference to your article on "Nuclear Winter" (The Scientist, May 1, 1989, page 1) and the commentaries that continue to appear in your Letters section: Most discussants of the current spate of computer-based atmospheric catastrophes assume that computer models and outputs are more reliable than the reality of observation. Although large-fire research in a war and wildland context has been going on for many years, a popularized study of the supposed effects of large fires, directed toward s

Thomas Palmer

In reference to your article on "Nuclear Winter" (The Scientist, May 1, 1989, page 1) and the commentaries that continue to appear in your Letters section: Most discussants of the current spate of computer-based atmospheric catastrophes assume that computer models and outputs are more reliable than the reality of observation.

Although large-fire research in a war and wildland context has been going on for many years, a popularized study of the supposed effects of large fires, directed toward support of the antinuclear weapons movement, was written and first published in Europe as "The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon," by Crutzen and Birks (Ambio, 1982, pages 115-25). The title did not have much glamour, but the concept did. The idea was reworked, a new computer model was developed, and the results were published in the U.S. in 1983 as "Nuclear winter: Global consequences of...

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